Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the benefit of taking a break from my usual writing and studies. I took the time to spend with family and friends, and tend to tasks around the home giving gratitude for the blessings in my life; reflecting upon the discovery of my sisters, new friends and precious time with my wife and sons.
Since graduating from seminary I have found myself engaging in “busy” projects, catching up from my three years mostly away from home. I’ve tackled closets, rooms, cluttered spaces and a dark and dingy basement. I’ve loaded garbage bag after garbage bag empting all that I could. Slowly our house has become, home again. Fresh paint, a new dining room, updated floors, created a whole new space in the basement for study, prayer and gathering. I hung pictures of the boys back up on the walls which were once removed for updating. It’s warm, it’s peaceful, it’s home again! All this in preparation for what is to come. Whatever is to come. Wherever the spirit leads. It reminds me of the time before Connor (my oldest son) was born. As a young wife in a new home I nested. I cleaned every corner, folded and stacked baby items, painted, and organized everything I could all with the anticipation of my little one’s arrival.
Now Advent is here and with that same anticipation, we are busy preparing for Christmas day. Making room for the tree, hanging stockings and lights, playing carols and shopping. I remember as a child, gleefully circling items in the big Sears Christmas catalog. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning, literally. There came an age, a right of passage, where my brother and I would hunt for hidden Christmas presents. Waiting is hard, even with hope and great anticipation, but the season of Advent is more than waiting, it ‘s a time of preparation and transformation.
Our Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 3:1-12) addresses how we are to prepare for the coming of our Lord. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” Preparing our homes with festive lights and decorations is fun, but it is merely an external symbol of what John is asking us to do. John is telling us that we in preparation for Christ must clean our internal homes, our heart, mind and soul. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”
The thought of confession or the Rite of confession in the Episcopal Church is frightening to some. Generally speaking, traumatized former Roman Catholics have voiced to me the depth of their uncomfortableness. It is with deep humility that I recognize and honor their fears. The gifts of the Rite of Reconciliation however is far too great to ignore or to set aside. When we open ourselves to reconciliation we begin to truly transform, emptying ourselves of preconceived predjudice and ideas, allows us the space to receive the gifts of God’s mercy, grace and peace.
I heard a story once told about a zen teacher who receives a university professor. They sit for tea and the teacher begins to pour the tea into the cup. He pours continuously allowing the tea to flow over the top. The professor urges him to stop as there is no more room and then the teacher says, “You see, you are like this cup, full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty the cup.”
In a world full of unrest and a longing for deep peace, reconciliation provides us a vehicle to emptying our cup, our heart, mind and soul, opening ourselves to God and to the Holy Spirit leading to our transformation. Through this opening of selves and transforming spirit may we be ready to receive Christ, the King of Peace.
“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”